Blawgletter reported yesterday about the Supreme Court’s accepting review of the $2.5 billion punitive damages award in Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, No. 07-219.  Order List at 2.  We guessed that the Court may use the case to open up a new line of battle in the war against punitive damages.  We feel a little better today.

Why?  Because the Court’s order limits the grant to three issues under "maritime law" — whether it allows punitive damages for (in effect) corporate gross negligence, whether the Clean Water Act’s specification of penalties precludes a punitive award under it, and whether the award falls within the limits it permits.  The Court denied review of a due process question.  We suspect it would have gone otherwise had Justice Alito not recused himself.

Shew!  We worried that the Court might start requiring each punitive damages case to negotiate yet another, one through which only flagrantly necessary yet tiny awards might pass.  Not yet.

The prospect — likelihood — that the Court will axe another jury verdict (after the Ninth Circuit slashed it in half already) still troubles us.  But at least it isn’t worse.  Yet.

Barry Barnett

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